college admissions scandal

What Every Kid in the College Admissions Scandal Knew About the Scam

It’s unclear what Lori Loughlin’s daughters knew. Photo: Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

The documents in the college admissions scandal are hundreds of pages long. I know because I read them cover to cover. Mostly because I was dying to find out how many of the kids involved in this story knew what their rich, dumb parents were up to. But you are a busy person and I appreciate that you maybe don’t have the time to read the phrase “bribed officials at USC” over and over until your eyeballs fall out of your head. So I did it for you.

Here’s a succinct — well, uh, a more succinct — list of everyone involved and what they did and did not know. (This is a summary of prosecutors’ allegations in court filings. Fifty people were charged but no one has been convicted, yet.) For reference, CW-1 and CW-2 are cooperating witnesses in the investigation. CW-1 co-founded and operated the organization behind the scheme and CW-2 worked for it. Only the parents – every parent charged in the filings is facing one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, a felony charge – are named in the court documents, so kids are listed under their parents’ names.

Families Whose Kids Probably Knew

Elizabeth and Manuel Henriquez — Manuel is the founder and CEO of a Silicon Valley hedge fund in Palo Alto — paid four separate times to manipulate exams for their two daughters. In one instance, CW-2 sat next to the older daughter and gave her the answers while she took the test. CW-2 said that after the test, he “gloated” with the mother and daughter about how they’d cheated and gotten away with it.

The younger daughter flew from California — the family lives in Atherton, California — to Houston to take the ACT in 2016 with a proctor who “discussed answers during the exam” with her and another student. The students were instructed to answer different questions incorrectly to avoid raising suspicion. The younger daughter later flew to Los Angeles to take the SAT subject tests at the the West Hollywood Test Center, a facility where CW-1 had a relationship with one of the test administrators, Igor Dvorskiy. (Dvorskiy, director of the West Hollywood College Preparatory School, has been indicted for accepting bribes to facilitate the scheme.) A proctor provided answers during the test. The family also bribed Gordie Ernst, the head tennis coach at Georgetown, to “recruit” their older daughter. The daughter was cc’d on emails discussing the plans.

The Isacksons’ oldest daughter got into UCLA after submitting a falsified soccer player profile. (Bruce is the president of a real estate development firm and the family, including wife Davina, lives in Hillsborough, California.) The couple paid $251,000 in Facebook stock to have her recruited. (She initially wanted to attend USC, but a clerical error landed her application in the regular admissions pile.) They also paid to have their younger daughter’s ACT scores doctored. She was admitted to USC as a rower. In high school, she rode horses.

The oldest daughter was cc’d on emails between her parents and CW-1 thanking him for his “creativity and commitment towards helping” her get into UCLA. The younger daughter was cc’d on an email detailing her conditional acceptance to USC months before formal letters would have been sent out in March.

Robert Zangrillo, the Miami-based founder and CEO of a private investment firm, got his daughter into USC by both bribing athletics officials at the school and by having someone posing as his daughter take classes at other colleges so that those grades could be submitted with her application. CW-1 worked with Zangrillo to get her admitted as a transfer student. She was initially rejected and her first application made no mention of rowing, the sport for which she would ultimately be admitted.

In a call between Zangrillo, his daughter, and CW-1, the girl asked what CW-1 was doing about a failing grade she’d received in art history. CW-1 said the person retaking the class for her was nearly done. Both Zangrillo and his daughter said “yes” when asked if they understood what that meant.

After one soccer recruitment bribe and one basketball recruitment bribe, both Toby MacFarlane’s son and daughter were admitted to USC. MacFarlane lives in Del Mar, California. He was a senior executive at an insurance company during the investigation.

MacFarlane’s daughter was included on an email between her father and CW-1 containing a bogus essay about her aggression on the soccer field. After she started school, her academic counselor emailed her about changing her Friday class schedule to accommodate games. She forwarded this email to her dad, asking if she should answer it. MacFarlane’s daughter graduated in 2018 and, despite being admitted as a purported soccer recruit, never played soccer at USC.

Stephen Semprevivo — an executive at an outsourced sales company in California — paid $400,00 to have his son portrayed as an outstanding tennis player. He “did not play tennis competitively.”

Semprevivo’s son was cc’d on an email from CW-1 containing a note to the Georgetown tennis coach about his purported tennis performance over the summer. The son was to send the note to the coach along with his transcripts, which he did.

Homayoun Zadeh, an associate professor of dentistry from Calabasas, paid a bribe to have his daughter recruited to play lacrosse at USC. He sent a photo of his daughter cheerleading to be used in her application. (Application photos were not infrequently doctored to make it look like kids played sports they did not.)

In a text conversation with CW-1, Zadeh mentioned that his daughter was “extremely upset” that he was forcing her to decide in a rush about attending USC. (Side-door entrances through the bribery scheme were completed months before the standard college application process.) She told her father she was “worried she did not get in on her own merits.” He said, “I have not shared anything about our own arrangement but she somehow senses it. She’s concerned others may view her differently.”

Napa vineyard owner Agustin Huneeus Jr. bribed the USC senior associate athletic director and, Jovan Vavic, the USC water polo coach to recruit his daughter. He also paid to have CW-2 proctor her SAT. (Huneeus lives in San Francisco.) He followed instructions to get a psychologist to grant his daughter extended time to take the test over several days. CW-2 “assisted … to answer questions during the exam” and changed her answers once she was done.

Huneeus’s daughter sent CW-1 a photo of her playing water polo to use in her application. She was late in sending it, so her actual application contained a photo of somebody else in a pool. It’s unclear if she knew just who she was sending it to or what he was doing with it.

Families Whose Kids Probably Didn’t Know

Actress Felicity Huffman — who is married to actor William H. Macy, who was not indicted — paid $15,000 to have her older daughter’s SAT answers changed after she finished testing. (She discussed but ultimately decided against a similar arrangement for her younger daughter.) CW-1 instructed her on how to get extra test time for her daughter so she could take the exam over two days instead of one. When her daughter’s high school wanted her to take the exam on campus, CW-1 had Huffman tell the school she was taking it at the West Hollywood Test Center over a weekend, so as not to miss any classes. (Huffman lives in Los Angeles.) Her daughter scored a 1420 on the SAT, 400 points higher than on her PSAT.

When discussing cheating for her younger daughter, Huffman told CW-1 she thought her daughter would want to take the exam twice no matter what score she got — indicating that Huffman did not inform her daughters that their scores were being manipulated.

Gamal Abdelaziz, who lives in Nevada, bribed Donna Heinel, the senior associate athletic director at USC, to have his daughter labeled as a recruit to the basketball team. The former senior international casino executive paid $200,000. His daughter had played basketball in high school but was not good enough to actually be recruited, so CW-1 — using personal info and photos provided by her father — created bogus records and fabricated achievements.

Abdelaziz’s daughter was ultimately accepted to USC and matriculated in 2018. CW-1 told Abdelaziz that a senior official at USC had started asking questions about why his daughter didn’t show up for basketball that year and that the cover story would be that an injury was keeping her from playing. Abdelaziz evinced concern in phone transcripts that the school would call his daughter about her injury, indicating she was not aware of the circumstances of her admission.

John Wilson, a founder and CEO of a private equity firm in Massachusetts, bribed athletics officials at USC on behalf of his son, who was admitted as a water polo recruit. (He did not ultimately play the sport.) In 2018, he paid bribes on behalf of his daughters to Stanford and Harvard. (Given the timeline of the investigation, it appears they were not admitted.)

Wilson’s wife – who has not been charged – said their son was “unaware of this arrangement” in an email to CW-1 and her husband.

Elisabeth Kimmel’s son was admitted to USC as a track recruit and her daughter got in to Georgetown for tennis. Neither child played sports upon matriculation. Their mother is the owner and president of Midwest Television and lives in both Las Vegas and La Jolla, California.

In December 2012, Kimmel’s daughter received an email from the Georgetown admissions department informing her that her application had been reviewed at the request of the tennis coach and her admission was “likely.” Her application included false claims about being ranked by the U.S. Tennis Association.

She graduated from Georgetown in 2017. Kimmel’s son’s advisor at USC asked him questions about his “status as a track athlete,” and he did not know that was why we had been admitted. “My son has no idea and we want to keep it that way,” Kimmel’s husband said in a call with CW-1. Kimmel’s son also received emails about track practices during his first weeks at school. Kimmel said her son was “still in the dark.”

Michelle Janavs, a graduate of USC herself, paid for her older daughter to receive a 32 on the ACT and for her to be recruited to USC as a beach volleyball recruit. (Janavs’s daughter played volleyball in high school but never beach volleyball.) She also paid for her younger daughter’s ACT scores to be doctored. Both daughters took the test at the West Hollywood Test Center. (Janavs lives in Newport Beach, California, and is a former executive of a family-owned food manufacturing company.)

Janavs called CW-1 to set up a similar scheme for her younger daughter. She noted, in a transcript of a call with CW-1 included in the filings, that her younger daughter “is not like my older daughter … she’s not stupid.” Her concern that the younger daughter would figure out what was going on seems to indicate the older daughter had no clue. There’s no indication that either daughter ever figured it out.

The daughter of Todd and Diane Blake was admitted to USC to play volleyball. Her admission cost $250,000 in bribes. The Blakes live in Ross, California. Todd is an entrepreneur and Diane is an executive at retail merchandising firm Winston Retail.

“Our daughter doesn’t even know,” Diane said in a call with CW-1.

Families Whose Kids’ Knowledge of the Scam Is Unclear

Jane Buckingham, founder of brand strategy firm Trendera, is accused of making a $50,000 donation to the Key Worldwide Foundation, a nonprofit prosecutors say was a cover for bribes, to have someone proctor the ACT for her son, Jack, in Houston, Texas and then doctor his answers (the Buckinghams live in Los Angeles). Her son was granted extended time to take the exam over two days, but the person hired to fly into Texas to rig the exam would only be in town for one day. The test results were manipulated to make it look like the test was taken over two days.

Just before the exam, Jack was diagnosed with tonsillitis and told not to travel. Buckingham asked for a copy of the exam so he could “take it at home” and she could proctor it — meanwhile somebody in Texas actually took the exam for him. That way, Jack would still believe he had taken the test himself. Buckingham was sent an ACT practice test to use at home. She was also asked to submit a handwriting sample for the person taking the test to mimic. She emailed an image of a handwritten note from Jack that read, “To whom it may concern, this provides an example of my current writing style. Thank you for your attention.” Jack scored at 35 out of 36 on his ACT.

Jack made a statement to The Hollywood Reporter saying he felt the need to speak out even though he had been advised against doing so. “I am upset that I was unknowingly involved in a large scheme that helps give kids who may not work as hard as others an advantage over those who truly deserve those spots,” he said. It is unclear if he did not realize it is not normal to take standardized tests in your own home, administered by your own mother, or if he ever stopped and said, Uh, what’s with this weird handwriting sample mom’s asking me for?

Legal titan Gordan Caplan’s daughter’s ACT scores cost him $75,000. (Caplan is co-chairman of the large law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher. He has been placed on leave since the news broke.) CW-1 explained in a number of phone calls that the girl would need a doctor’s note to get extra time on her exams, emphasizing that she’d need “to be stupid” during her evaluation to ensure that it would work (CW-1 supplied the psychologist). A psychologist denied the request twice before granting it. Her highest practice test score was a 22. Her father purchased a 32.

There is nothing in the documents to indicate the girl knew, but she may have had some questions about why she was flying to take the ACT in California when it’s also offered in her home state of Connecticut.

Gregory and Marcia Abbott, who live in Colorado and New York, paid $50,000 for their daughter to take an exam in April 2018 at the West Hollywood Test Center — where her results would be doctored after she finished. (Gregory is the founder and chairman of International Dispensing Corp., a food and beverage packaging company.) She received a 35 out of 36 (her actual score was a 23). Marcia later called and paid an additional $75,000 for the SAT II tests in Math and English Literature. The girl received an 800 and a 710 on those tests, respectively.

Marcia said her daughter thought she took the ACT in California because she was already there to visit potential colleges, indicating that Marcia wanted to keep her daughter in the dark. When she took the SAT subject tests on her own, in Colorado, Marcia said her daughter thought she did poorly. They then flew back to California to have her retake them in October, presumably without an explanation.

I-Hsin “Joey” Chen, who runs a warehousing business called Torrance, paid $75,000 to have his son’s exam proctored at the West Hollywood Test Center. (The Chens live in Newport Beach, California.) He scored a 33 out of 36 on his ACT.

Court documents do not indicate whether or not Chen’s son was aware of his father’s dealings.

William McGlashan Jr., a private equity executive, paid to have his son’s ACT answers corrected after the fact, and to have him designated as an athletic recruit to USC. The boy traveled from the family’s home in Marin County, California to the West Hollywood Test Center to take the ACT over two days, but phone records indicate he was hundreds of miles away from the test center on day two. During phone conversations, McGlashan asked if there was a way to get his son recruited to USC “in a way that he doesn’t know it happened.” CW-1 said yes, and to just tell the boy that “I’m going to take his stuff and I’m going to get him some help.” Images of the boy playing football — his high school didn’t have a team — were Photoshopped for his application.

It appears McGlashan tried to keep his son in the dark, but that his son knew his father had someone “lobbying for him.” CW-1 told McGlashan to tell his son, “You’re an athlete kind of guy, and my friends in athletics are going to help you. So I’m letting you know. They’re going to help get you in.” Another parent at McGlashan’s son’s high school, who was also talking with CW-1, said the son “had no idea.”

Marjorie Klapper, a jewelry designer from Menlo Park, California, paid $15,000 to cheat on her son’s ACT after she found out about another student CW-1 was helping in 2017. He scored a 30 out of 36 at — you guessed it — the West Hollywood Test Center.

Court documents give no information on whether or not Klapper told her son about the scheme.

Designer Mossimo Giannulli and actress Lori Loughlin paid half a million dollars to have their daughters falsely recruited to the USC crew team. They sent photos of both daughters on ergometers as part of their applications, despite the fact that neither had ever rowed competitively. A guidance counselor later asked Olivia, the younger daughter, about her sister getting recruited to row at USC. The counselor “was concerned their [Olivia and her sister’s] applications may have contained misleading information.”

Olivia was later cc’d on emails with her parents and CW-1 in which her mother asked for help with applications to other colleges — “I don’t want to call any attention to [Olivia] with our little friend [guidance counselor].” CW-1 “responded by directing an employee to submit the application on behalf of [Olivia Jade.]” So did she understand what was going on? She certainly would have known, at the very least, that she did not submit those other college applications herself.

Devin Sloane’s son was yet another so-called water polo recruit at USC. The son did not actually play water polo, so his father purchased water polo gear on Amazon to dress his son appropriately for a photo shoot. (Stone lives in Los Angeles and is the founder and CEO of a drinking water and wastewater systems company, waterTALENT.)

A high school counselor asked Sloane’s son directly about his admittance to USC to play water polo. (The high school did not have a team.) Documents do not indicate if Sloane’s son was looped in after this encounter.

In 2016, Marci Palatella paid to have her son take his SAT at the West Hollywood Test Center, where a proctor doctored his answers. (CW-1 ensured Palatella’s son was evaluated by a psychologist and granted extra test time.) Palatella, who lives in Hillsborough, California and is the CEO of a liquor distribution company, told her son’s high school he was taking the test elsewhere because they were looking at schools in the area.

“Money, for the right environment, yes. But he can never know,” Palatella said in an email plotting to bribe athletics officials at USC. Her son was eventually admitted. A neighbor later told her son that his parents “basically paid off to get in.”

Two of Douglas Hodge’s three kids got into USC as alleged athletic recruits. A third was admitted to Georgetown to play tennis, though she never actually joined the team. Hodge — former CEO of mutual fund giant PIMCO — talked to CW-1 about using a similar scheme to get his son into Loyola Marymount University in 2018. (Hodge lives in Newport Beach, California, and is the former CEO of an investment management company.)

Court documents give no indication of whether or not the kids were aware of the scheme.

Peter Sartorio’s daughter’s ACT score of 27 was a bargain at $15,000. Sartorio, a packaged food entrepreneur, lives in Menlo Park, California, but arranged to have his daughter take the test, with extra time, at the West Hollywood Test Center, where her answers were changed after she finished. Sartorio paid in cash.

There’s no indication in the court documents of whether or not Sartorio’s daughter were aware.

Oncologist Gregory Colburn and his wife Amy live in Palo Alto and paid $25,000 (in stocks and checks) to have their son’s SAT scores changed. Their son traveled from Palo Alto to take the test at the West Hollywood Test Center.

The court documents don’t indicate what their son may have known.

Los Angeles–based resort developer Robert Flaxman paid a bribe to help get his son admitted to the University of San Diego. Flaxman’s daughter — the Flaxmans live in Beverly Hills — took the ACT on her own at first and scored a 20. She retook the exam and got a 24. After her father paid to have her scores altered following a subsequent effort, she scored a 28. That time, she flew to Houston from her home in California to take the test.

Court documents do not indicate whether or not Flaxman’s two kids knew. His daughter, at the very least, would have known she was traveling across state lines to take a test she’d already taken twice in her home state.

What Every Kid in the Admissions Scandal Knew About the Scam